After you have had a baby, your body has been through one of the biggest changes it will ever go through. This can have prolonged affects physically and mentally, well past the 12 month period. As a new mum, you have gone through pregnancy, given birth and now have a baby to care for 24 hours a day, which can all be exhausting for your body.
New Mums put so much pressure on themselves to bounce back to their prenatal bodies. So much so, they dive into exercise that can have a detrimental affect on their bodies. Even if you feel great, you still need to heal and recover. Exercising in classes that are not geared towards postnatal recovery can lead to poor pelvic floor dysfunction and much worse. If you find you are having more accidents than a toddler, this incontinence could be down to a weak core, pelvic floor and diastasis recti.
What is Diastatis Recti?
Diastasis Recti (DRA) is the separation of the right and left abdominal muscles from the midline of the belly. Not surprisingly 53% of new Mums have it. This separation itself is a result of the connective tissue, called the linea alba, getting stretched and more lax from your growing baby in pregnancy. It is a VERY common result of pregnancy and very possible to heal well postpartum.
DRA may worsen if exercise is carried out at loads that the body cannot manage and there are many exercises you should avoid like crunches. You may feel like you look bloated all time, or that your lower back and pelvis doesn’t feel as stable. This is due to the connective tissue that runs down the midline of your belly, losing its density and being thinned out. This is why slow rehabilitation is so important to full recovery.
Testing for Diastasis Recti
So the question you are probably all thinking now, is how do I know I’ve got it? Ideally you should wait until 10 day to 2 weeks postpartum to do your initial assessment so that you have a measure to compare against as your progress.
- Start by laying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Walk your hands down the middle of your belly to gauge how taut the connective tissue is there. Start under your sternum and work your way down towards your pubic bone. Feel if some areas are squishier than others, can you press your fingers way down into your belly?
- Using 3 middle fingers of one hand, press straight down into the belly just above the belly button. Tuck your chin towards your chest and slowly lift your head and not your shoulders off the floor. Change the amount of fingers you are using for a more accurate measure.
- repeat the above step but below the belly button.
- re-test all three measurements, but this time when exhaling perform a kegal exercise (pretending that you are stopping yourself from urinating) and redo the head lift test.
You should typically assess yourself every 2-3 weeks and this will demonstrate if the exercises you are doing are working. You would expect the tension down your midline to toughen and not be so soft if you are healing properly. The gap may reduce to about two fingers, but to test for a healed Diastasis, you want to be feeling solid tension down your midline when testing. Think of it as pushing your fingers into a soft mattress or a firm one.
Seeing a Physiotherapist is the best way to check that you have no major issues. If you are concerned, they can check you for Diastasis Recti, cystocele, rectocele, or uterine prolapse. They can also teach you how to properly recruit your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles (via internal exams).
Exercising is the best way to help heal your Diastasis Recit. Please make sure you are attending postnatal specialist classes or using a personal trainer who has a postnatal qualification. If you would like any help with your assessment, please get in touch. We have free postnatal group exercise sessions in different areas of Plymouth, or you can pay for private one to one sessions. Both you can bring your baby along with you. If you do not heal safely now, you may be faced with pain and incontinence for a very long time. Please contact us for more details.